The Brain Tumor That Led to Gratitude


Do you see your trials as a privilege?

After my surgery, completely healed and with a head full of beautiful hair, I danced out of the hospital home to a perfect life. Since I had "paid my dues"—especially at such a young age—I've never had to go through another time of trial or pain.

Obviously, sarcasm is dripping off of that statement, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I wanted to believe that might be partially true. Yet there was more and there will be more that God requires of me. More trials, more testing, more fire to refine me.

"More" started just a month after my surgery. I was home from the hospital six days after my surgery, extremely weak, but healing. Suddenly, I started having horrible headaches again, and the doctor determined that fluid was still collecting in my brain. So back to surgery I went, having my precious regrowing stubble shaved off, and a shunt implanted. Then healing began in earnest, and I was back in my classroom teaching just eight weeks after my original surgery.

I was getting back to normal. The double vision I had acquired after the surgery was improving. It was confirmed that my tumor was benign and other than regular MRI checks, I wouldn't need any further treatment. But frankly, I looked sick. It was winter, and I was pale. I was absolutely exhausted at the end of each school day. My twice half-shaved hair was growing some, but the other half was actually falling out—a reaction to the extreme stress my body had been through. I don't think I'll ever forget the feeling of sweeping up piles of my own hair off the white linoleum in our bathroom. I had so little hair it only took about three minutes each morning to blow it dry, but I closed my eyes the whole time so I didn't have to see myself in the mirror. And as sweet and dedicated as Dan was in still caring for me, I sure didn't feel like his pretty, young bride anymore.

Then entered doubt and worry. God had seemed so near in the midst of the diagnosis and surgery. So many people were praying then. But as life moved on, thoughts moved in. "What if the tumor comes back?" "What if Dan always sees me as his sick wife?" "What if I can't have children because of this?" I went to God with these questions and tried to cling to His Word. I think I tried to do that in my own power though—not depending on Him as desperately as I had at the beginning of the journey. Looking back, I know I should have chosen some specific verses to memorize, like Isaiah 48:17–18, which says: 

This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea."

God's promise to me wasn't the perfect life I had envisioned as a teenager. God's promise to me is a perfected life. One where He brings people, circumstances, and trials to make me more like Him. To make me more dependent on Him. To make me more focused on bringing others to Him. My physical body—my health and even my appearance—was marred for a time. But the beauty God was creating in me was the kind found in 1 Peter 3, "the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

The refining continues. "More" kept coming and comes still. And I'm forever marked by the privilege of the trials God has asked me to go through, and I will always proclaim His faithfulness shown to and through me.

  This post was written by Heidi Jo Fulk.

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